Sites get old

Just today, I was alerted by my Internet host that this website had a critical error. It turns out that the theme we chose to use for our unconference in January 2013 was no longer working the way it was intended.

I didn’t want to take the site down, and so I’ve just switched the theme. All of the site’s content is still here, but it looks quite a bit different, and I don’t have time at the moment (finals! 3rd-year review!) to revise everything. As Vonnegut has it, “So it goes.”

Fortunately, the Wayback Machine has your back.

Rethinking Graduate Education

Much of the conversation about digital pedagogies seems to be implicitly centered around undergraduate students. I’d love to have a conversation about how digital pedagogies are changing academic spaces for graduate students both in classrooms and beyond. How are your classes using digital pedagogies for grad students, especially outside of digital humanities courses? Are there any opportunities for collaborative projects or participatory pedagogy? Have classes branched out from responses on Blackboard — even with something simple like a course blog?  What about digital publishing tools? How do you deal with resistance from students, faculty or department requirements?

Online Spaces and Writing

I’m a PhD student, and I started teaching freshman composition last semester. Although I had initially envisioned my students tweeting and blogging, the time constraint and required rubric that the class had to follow made me realize that using these social media platforms are difficult to do in a tightly structured composition class. We did, however, maintain a class blog (visible and open to only the class) and which proved to be an effective platform — this became the students’ own created archive. I want to think through ideas on how to facilitate sustained, organic interactions among the students by, for instance, getting them to realize that reading and commenting on their peers’ posts matter. I also want to think about  effective ways in which these interactions can be integrated into the classroom, thus creating a bridge between online and offline spaces — inside and outside the classroom (also: the idea of publicness; how the classroom itself is a public space, etc). In a way, these questions are inspired by Edward Said’s essay on “Professionals and Amateurs,” which I have been thinking about a lot. Said talks about “an activity fueled by care and affection,” and about “love for and unquenchable interest in the larger picture, in making connections across lines and barriers, in refusing to be tied down to a specialty,” an idea that I find useful when considering my role as a lecturer, and in thinking about utilizing spaces where I can begin to break down some of the boundaries between instructor and students, and in getting students to start caring (and in turn being critical) about the ideas they think about and put into writing.

FERPA and teaching with open digital tools

Do you have your students blog, tweet or use Facebook as part of class? Are you worried about the impact of using social media combined with FERPA? I’m proposing a small session to talk about this, and to navigate potential issues. A set of good guidelines can be found on Cathy Davidson’s HASTAC blog. Kevin Smith, Duke University’s Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communication, suggested several steps faculty could take to mitigate potential FERPA complications here.

MOOCs and Digital Pedagogy

I would like to discuss the viability of MOOCs as a pedagogical mode within the humanities. 1. How do MOOCs disrupt the traditional curriculums, economies, and power dynamics of higher ed.? 2. How do we measure success within a MOOC? 3. What are the various pedagogies of MOOCs (play, experimentation, active learning)? Can these pedagogies be equally successful in different disciplines (humanities, sciences, etc.)? 4. How do we build community within and between MOOCs? And how do we make connections between online and in-person, formal and informal, learning communities?

Even if we don’t agree that the MOOC can be a viable educational form, can we outline useful pedagogical practices that MOOCs inspire. Sean Michael Morris and I define MOOCification as “a pedagogical approach inspired by MOOCs that is unleashed in an otherwise closed or small-format course.”

Digital pedagogy outside the classroom

If others are interested, I’d love to spend some time talking about ways that we can (or could, or already do) incorporate digital pedagogy methods not just to teach students in the classroom, but also to “teach” our colleagues or other non-students. As someone in the alt-academic world, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways that most of us teach people every day, even outside of formal classes. There’s a generosity of spirit on Twitter, for instance, that has helped me to learn a great deal from informal conversations. It strikes me that part of this kind of teaching involves helping others to feel more comfortable in various digital environments so that we can collectively shift toward new standards and innovations. What are some strategies you use in peer-to-peer instruction? Are formal structures ever helpful for that kind of thing, or is the informal give-and-take of people seeking and offering advice part of what makes it work? What are some of the resources you draw on most frequently, and how can we make them stronger?

“Occupy the public domain”

I’ve taken the title of my proposal from Jennifer Rothman’s February 6, 2012 op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle where she argues, “Instead of providing for sharing […] important [civic] moments, our government has been complicit in endorsing a vision of copyright law in which nothing is free for use by the public.” Today (January 1, 2013), the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University published its annual Public Domain Day list of works that would have entered the public domain had the copyright term not been extended, via the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension, from 56 years to life plus 70 years (or 95 years for corporate authors). A case currently pending in the Supreme Court involves the continued viability of the “first sale” doctrine and textbooks. I’m used to being the “copyright person” at these sorts of un-gatherings, and so I’m going to beat once again the copyleft drum and propose a session in which we brainstorm strategies for “occupying the public domain.”

So much of the work described in the proposals posted thus far would be greatly facilitated by students and teachers having the right to remix or reuse existing work and publish the results publicly on the web or elsewhere. What is being done at our institutions and by us personally to secure that right? What can we do to make the regulatory system more hospitable to the work we do (or would like to do) in the classroom? Why does all of the conversation about “educational” fair use seem to center around course management systems and what can and cannot be copied (consumed), while neglecting the issues presented by students as user/producers of copyrighted work?

Writing, Comp/Rhet, and DH Tools

In my current position, I teach English primarily as composition and rhetoric.  For most of my students, my class is their first experience with college level-writing.  I’d like to think about ways to incorporate current open-source digital tools into the comp/rhet classroom with specific ideas for assignments, daily writing, and connection outside the classroom.  Some ideas for assignments I’ve been tossing around are: using Wordle to analyze articles, the 140 character thesis statement, using Storify to learn about and manipulate the traditional “Argument by Definition”, using Zotero to organize readings and bibliography groups, and using games and gaming as an overarching theme for a writing course.  I’m interested in collaborating with others about how to use open source digital tools (some of which have largely been employed for literary analysis, but I think could be adapted for comp/rhet) in order to expand the boundaries of the traditional comp/rhet classroom.

DH and the First Year Writing Course

As a graduate student I have few chances to teach upper level courses, so almost all of my teaching experience is with first year writing courses and first year literature courses, both of which are highly structured by a Writing Programs office (standard syllabus, learning outcomes, sometimes a particular reading list, etc.,). I’m having a hard time finding a chance to expose my students to work in the digital humanities because of the rigid structures put in place by the programs office. Part of what I’m looking forward to at the unconference is 1) finding ways to talk to a programs office about incorporating DH work that I believe will be highly effective for my students and 2) finding ways to work within the confinements of the first year courses.



Students as Apprentice Scholars

Since the late 1990s, I have recruited students to work on the John Milton Reading Room, an online hyperlinked edition of Milton’s poetry and selected prose. They have prepared texts, tagged spelling variants, written annotations and introductions. Working as apprentices under a Presidential Fellows program administered by Dartmouth, dozens of students have produced meaningful scholarship used by readers around the work.  The MRR answers about 16-18 thousand requests for pages every day. Britannica, Norton Literature Online, Wikipedia and scores of library guides link to the site. It is used as a primary text in many Milton courses around the world.  See the list of student contributors at  (Click on “About the MRR”)

This kind of teaching/learning hasn’t translated well to the classroom, however. The courses I teach on Milton seem poorly structured for this kind of apprentice work. I’d like to change that if I can.